The Radio’s In The Hands Of Such A Lot Of Fools Trying To Anesthetize The Way That You Feel….

Here’s a link to a Technique article regarding how outside forces are trying to alter WREK :

Quick stuff on some recently attended shows :

Saw Regina Spektor the other Friday and while I was impressed with how many attractive girls were at the show, the music was about as dull as it gets. Had heard Soviet Kitsch a bit back and thought it sounded ok, but this was boredom personified, with my main entertainment being watching two drunk (?) girls dancing madly somehow in a fairly confined space. At one one point Regina sang about how “two people next door to her were fucking to her music” (in so many words). Must have been because Regina was blasting her stero at their walls because the only bed activity I could imagine with her music involves snoring. If you start with Elton John and think watered down is Billy Joel and watered down of that is Bruce Hornsby, apply that process to Kate Bush -> Tori Amos -> Regina Spektor.

Saw Joan Jett the next night and that did nothing for me either. Have been going to see her for going on twenty-five years now and while I don’t mind her plugging her new album (though that version of the Replacements’ “Androgynous” she was doing at Music Midtown something like four years ago isn’t new anymore), I wish she’d diversify up the back catalog she plays. As is, you start realizing that for a decent songwriter (my opinion), most of her set is covers. I was also reeling a bit from having watched the movie “Edgeplay – A Film About The Runaways”, knowing how she (and her manager) had Vicki Blue pull any songs she had written from the film as well as whatever interview segments were done. So, anyone unfamiliar with the Runaways watching the movie would have little clue as to what they sounded like (outside of the Runaways’ covers of “Wild Thing” and “Rock N Roll”), but might mistake them with the Suzi Quatro (remakes even!) and Lita Ford solo selections that comprise much of the soundtrack. Would like to have found out more about what (Cherie/Sandy/Jackie/Vicki) did after leaving the band, especially given Sandy’s comments about how she learned something in prison, once broke someone’s arm and once put a gun down someone’s throat until they shit themselves. Whatever occurred, Sandy lived a hard life and you wished she could have seen a little bit better day before she passed away.

Saw Drivin N Cryin for the 237th time this past Friday. Kevn announced on-stage that this was the last time they’d do their annual Thanksgiving concert but he privately told me the same thing about last year’s show, so we’ll see. Thought they played a good deal better than the last few times I’ve seen them so that was fun.

In town this week is the first Atlanta appearance in over thirty years of the New York Dolls. Though Syl lives in Atlanta and has played out occasionally, it will be David Johansen’s first concert here since his band opened for Pat Benatar at the Omni in the fall of 1981. (David did film a movie here in the early 1990s. I think it may have been “Car 54, Where Are You?”) Haven’t heard the new Dolls album yet (Why should Roadrunner bother servicing a college station? They send us their metal, but not this?), but the live reunion stuff from a few years ago was pretty darn good. Just watched “All Dolled Up”, Bob Gruen’s DVD of archival Dolls live/off-stage footage and was quite impressed. Amazing how lucid Johnny Thunders was considering what he became. If you are in Atlanta, you should definitely go see the Dolls at the Variety Playhouse on Wednesday. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.

They killed off 96 Rock this week. Sure, the classic rock it had been of recent was nowhere near as much fun as when it seemed the jocks had input into what they played (pre-Burkhart/Abrams), but it was an identifiable brand most folks my age grew up with. Funny how their corporate folks say they are catering to males 18 – 44 (yeah, most 44 year-olds like to listen to angry music with the jocks cutting in thanking the listeners for coming out to “party” with them, a promo of which the station is using to advertise moving the format down the dial.) 18 – 25, more likely. Still, 96 Rock is the station where I first heard the Sex Pistols (they played “God Save The Queen” the afternoon that the Pistols played at the Great Southeast Music Hall in January of 1978) and heard many a great concert broadcast (King Biscuit/Live At The Agora) including occasional simulcasts (Graham Parker, Joe Jackson, Peter Tosh) that sort of stood out at the time. But they did them. Time to guess the over/under on the lifetime of the Project 96.1 format? I guess under 5 years….

If you haven’t read my rant on what they are trying to do to WREK, skip to the post previous to this one and do something about it……..


Got HD Radio?

Well I could tell you how I went and saw a great (Wreckless Eric) and decent (Cheap Trick) show this week, but this post is all about WREK. The radio show Personality Crisis airs on WREK but WREK programming could soon be undergoing a radical (tragic) shift.

First, let me clarify that all opinions to be noted are mine, not WREK’s, that I host a show only there and have no position of authority. That said, “Let’s rumble…”

I graduated from Georgia Tech in 1990. At some point during my (what seemed like endless) tenure as a student there, I came to the realization that Tech was not a very student friendly school. At times, it seemed that if GT could subsist on grants and completely blow students off, then GT would be in a dream situation. Unfortunately, there are students. But, luckily for Tech, most of the student population is generally apathetic. So when some genii designs a parking deck to sit at the lowest point on campus, the students accept it, not realizing the brilliance until a flood or two damages their cars. (this happened circa 1984.) I’ve got an idea! Let’s feature a dining hall that stops serving dinner at 6:30! Who eats after that? (Not sure when this was implemented at the student center. I think they have an area there that stays open a little later there but the snack area used to stay open until at least 10 when I was a froshperson.) Anyway, they may be counting on that apathy again. This time the target is WREK.

You might have read about the WREK situation in Creative Loafing or the Technique, but it hasn’t subsided. It’s picked up speed. Right now, plans are afoot for Public Broadcasting to lease a certain amount of time (over 10 hours) and for WREK to go “digital” and be dumped into the unknown world of HD Radio. Do you have HD radio? Do you know anyone that does? I know there’s a big push on HD TV since that’s going to replace terrestrial TV but there doesn’t seem to be that same urgency (aka advertising blitz) regarding radio. So right now, I’m regarding it with the same regard I paid minidiscs. And DATS. I’d say CB radios, but more people own those than HD radios. Also, WREK’s tower would move to Stone Mountain. Yippee! It’s just fine where it is for the signal and we’ve turned down moving the tower to the Peachtree Plaza in the past. So…. Let’s look at the winners and losers here…..


GPB – I’m not exactly sure what they want to put on WREK, to be honest. I’m guessing NPR stuff that they don’t air while they air their original programs of “highbrow” music from the 1700s-1800s that was originally the pop music of the day. In fact, I think Mozart may actually have an “Oops, I Did It Again” sonata. But that stuff brings in those listener contributions ($$$$$$$) so that they can continue to operate. I’m sure they have multiple radio personalities (they may not be Steve and Vikki, but they are personalities) that make salaries that are multiples of WREK’s $40 K budget (virtually unchanged since the mid-70s), but if people want to give it to them… Anyway, this would get the monkey off their back of having to field complaints from folks who want more NPR, less Johann Sebastian. And I’m sure GPB would pay a “fair” rate to lease the time, aka they’ll make more back in listener contributions than they’ll pay out. So less hassle with NPR fans, more airtime at a “fair” rate, more money coming in, GPB ARE WINNERS!

Georgia Tech – Tech win in several ways. First of all, and most obvious, is via income revenue. You’ve got to try to get up in that Harvard range for bringing in dough and we all know GPB’s “fair” rate is gonna push ’em toward that top. Then there’s the prestige of having that award-winning NPR programming associated with Georgia Tech. Excuse me, but will anyone actually listen to GT’s new version of WREK and associate what’s coming out with GT? If they don’t do it with an actually innovative station (which WREK currently is), how will they when the programming will be exactly the same as if the person was listening to public radio in some place like Omaha or Santa Clara? What was all that shit about “we don’t fit the mold, we break it” ? GT students and alums can say that proudly but in this case it rings just as hollow as “I’m not gonna pay a lot for this muffler.” Just another marketing catchphrase, obviously. Tech seems to be  stuck on trying to position itself as some sort of “cultural leader” and I’m not sure why. It could be, again, the pursuit of $$$$$. Look at how the Ferst Center is booked. Cheesy acrobats that would have been mildly amusing on the TV show Real People (the Umbilical Brothers), once decent artists trying to keep their careers afloat (Chick Corea and Bela Fleck), lame as get all new age (George Winston), lame-o smooth jazz (Earl Klugh) and the Hamburg Symphony, noted for its “innovative programming”, performing the works of those radicals Tchaikovsky and Brahms! Safe, non-threatening stuff that’ll bring in the $$$$. Not unlike the programming of music you’ll more likely hear on public radio! Meanwhile, Georgia State’s Rialto Theatre series features Bo Diddley, the Royal Drummers of Burundi and a Steve Reich Festival! Still, NPR programming is sure to spur some alum to give mucho dinero and besides, it’ll keep them from having to hear those pesky “Hour Of Slack” promos during ISP GT night game broadcasts. So, GEORGIA TECH ARE WINNERS!


Georgia Tech Students – Not just looking at WREK staff here, but the student population as a whole. Understand that WREK has always been funded by student activity funds with additional fees (electricity, location space) picked up by the school. The station is still “owned and operated” by GT students, and that’s gonna change. An outside entity is now going to do that. WREK has always had problems with student listenership and if a group of students had banded together with the goal of taking over the station to play Creed, I would have been sad but at least understanding. The current situation is sad, but not understandable. And the students may raise an uproar if (when?) it occurs, but after a couple of weeks the apathy will kick back in and “ Hey why did Paul Hewitt play for the tie?” will be a more likely subject of conversation. And, thus, there’ll be one less extracurricular activity to participate in. I gotta go to Diff-EQs…… So, in this situation, GEORGIA TECH STUDENTS LOSE.

The Arts Scene In Atlanta – Considering more than just listeners here, since those guys will still be able to listen to WREK on their spiffy HD Radios sitting atop their Betamaxes. Smirk. Not that those with an NPR jones probably couldn’t find said programming on the internet, it’s just not on Sirius yet and I wanna hear it on the radio in my Lexus as I head in from Douglasville. WREK programming is UNLIKE any other radio station out there. Terrestrial/satellite/podcast, WREK is totally unique. Yes, there are elements that are common with other stations’ programming (both good and bad), but in the 23 years I’ve been affiliated with WREK it has always attempted to be the best radio station featuring the best programming available for Atlanta (and now the world via the internet.) Sometimes we’ve been successful, sometimes not so. But the success ratio has always seemed to be better than the failure. This unique vision which has been the first to bring Atlanta the music of rock acts like the Smashing Pumpkins, Flaming Lips and Mastodon (to name just a few), has also exposed many Atlantans for the first time to many jazz acts, world musicians, hip hop artists, experimental artists and, ahem, modern classical artists like Harry Partch and Steve Reich that the existing public radio station  in Atlanta has generally stayed away from like a ten foot pole. It has educated the listening audience as well as the student staff about types of music and art that they never would have discovered on their own. It certainly did me. Now the only teaching will be the power of the almighty dollar. WREK also provided a stage for internationally known acts such as the Indigo Girls. Red House Painters and Black Crowes, who all performed at the station in the formative stages of their careers. And, though I’ve never heard them mention it, I’d imagine the multi-million selling act Outkast have been a little influenced by some of WREK’s hip hop/rock programming in developing their unique sound. Plus, WREK has been allowed the artists to be heard via interview. Since 1968, WREK has featured interviews with individuals as diverse as David Bowie to Sun Ra, from civil rights pioneer Hosea Williams to punk rock pioneer Joey Ramone. Frank Zappa called in, Captain Beefheart came by and pro wrestlers amazed WREK listeners with their knowledge of Einstein’s theories! (Ok, maybe not the last part.)  But Van Hammer and Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash) did stop by. Nonetheless, WREK has filled in a lot of cracks the rest of Atlanta’s media hasn’t been able to. That soon will change. ATLANTA (and INTERNET) RADIO LISTENERS as well as ATLANTA (and WORLD) ARTISTS LOSE.


As I see it, there’s two ways of fighting this war :

1) Since the overwhelming factor seems to be money, make a difference there. If this situation distresses you, and you are an alumnus of Georgia Tech, tell them you will no longer donate money to the school if they go through with this action. Tell other alums and ask them to do the same. If you know an influential ($$$$) alum like John Portman, or the Day family, or anyone (or the relatives) who has a building named after them on campus, advise them of the situation. Above all, be nice and civil when talking about this. Harrassment won’t accomplish anything and hurts the WREK cause in the long term.

2) Tell folks about it. Websites, blogs, media, artists, bands, politicians, anyone. Again, be prudent. But get the word out.

3) If you are an artist performing in Atlanta, mention it on-stage. Mention it to other artists and alert them to what is happening. WREK may need some of you artists to perform for us at some sort of benefit/event in the future. Contact Jeremy Varner at  . This applies to everyone. If you know Elton John, or R.E.M. or the Indigo Girls,  or Outkast or Jermaine Dupri, let them know. They are local-related acts who may/should know about WREK and could possibly help. If you know anyone of fame that GT bigwigs would know, be it Willie Nelson or U2 or Philip Glass or Neil Young or whoever, tell them about the situation. Ask them to lend a word to the administration or a performance for the cause. Money can help. but positive publicity for WREK (which would make the whole deal appear more seedy) would also be a big help. WREK has certainly helped out a lot of you artists, now we need your help.

4) Above all, keep the faith. It’s not a done deal. To quote a favorite saying of Joe Strummer, “The Future Is Unwritten.” If you’ve enjoyed/appreciated what WREK does and has done, it’s time for you to write it….